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Calendar
We offer flexible vacation durations. 5, 7, 10 days… it's your choice.

Climate

The humid tropical climate of Jamaica's north-central coast varies from hot to slightly less hot. With an average daytime temperature of close to 30 C and no winter to speak of, you can appreciate the jungle canopy's shade and the abundance of refreshing natural water sources. The warm sea is about 26 C.

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Climate cont'd

Tourism peaks here during the dry season from December to the windiest month, April, known locally as "kite season." It is a pleasurable time to bask in the Caribbean heat, cooled by the trade winds. In January and February, days can drop to 19 C. Spring break crowds flock to Jamaican resorts from mid-March to mid-April. Make reservations well in advance for the region's top hotels, restaurants and attractions.

The quietest time to visit is from Easter until November, when the elements vary the most. The wet season officially starts in May, but September and October are the rainiest, most humid months. Tropical downpours tend to be short and sporadic, often leaving behind the clearest skies, as well as mosquitoes (so bring repellent). Storm season peaks in August and September, but storms rarely occur.

Weather chart

What makes it different?

Ocho Rios in St. Ann Parish has developed from a sleepy fishing village and port into the island's third most popular tourist destination.

What sets it apart is its prime central geography and small population. St. Ann is the country's largest parish, yet its total number of residents is only a fraction of the populations found in Montego Bay and Kingston – the nation's capital.

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What makes it different? cont'd

St. Ann's forest groves and turquoise waters have long been a playground for celebrities and luminaries such as Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill and Marilyn Monroe. Even Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones owns an estate in the hills above Ocho Rios.

A quarter of Jamaicans are linked to the tourism industry; other key exports include limestone, gypsum, sugar and coffee. Islanders parade the official Rasta colours of red, green and gold with fun and flair.

There is a mix of town and country folk, hillside mansions and shantytowns to discover. Smartly dressed kids in school uniforms walk to school along the narrow roads. Women with intricately braided hair and bedazzled skirts contrast the Rastas with dreads piled high in knitted caps.

Jamaica is the most populated English-speaking country in the Caribbean. The island's second official language is a kind of rapid fire Creole called Jamaican Patois, which is practically indecipherable to the untrained ear. The lyrical remix of British dialect originated in the 17th century with the island's first African residents.

Common catchphrases include ever-ting irie (pronounced "eye ree," meaning everything's all right), and the standard phrase for agreement and harmony, yeah man (not "mon," as per the stereotype).

One of Jamaica's finest exports is reggae. Its ever-present rhythms are a vacation bonus and a mainstay of the country's top radio station, Irie FM.

Island food is lively as well. Jerk chicken, pork and seafood are grilling passions on par with Texas barbecue. Other national specialties include the breakfast staple of ackee fruit and saltfish (cod). It's an acquired taste often served with bammies (cassava cakes) or fried-flour dumplings called Johnny cakes.

For a power breakfast, start the day with an omelette stuffed with callaloo, a leafy green similar to spinach, but without the bitter taste of Popeye's favourite veggie. It's loaded with vitamins, minerals, protein and amino acids – just what you need for a full day of outdoor adventure.

Geography

Ocho Rios is your gateway to an extraordinary natural wonderland on Jamaica's north shore.

This fun in the sun destination translates to "eight rivers". However, it derives its name from Las Chorreras – Spanish for "gushing" water, inspired by the 180-metre cascade at Dunn's River Falls.

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Geography cont'd

Sheltered bays sprinkled with white sand beaches are backed by jungle hills. In the thick of it are hiking trails, forest parks and botanical gardens. Local flora includes some 3,000 species of flowering plants. Canopied stretches of huge ferns lead inland to fertile, rust-red country soil. Near the resort haven of Runaway Bay, you'll find nine species of bats residing in the Green Grotto and Runaway Caves. This amazing underground maze is open to intrepid vacationers.

The central north coast location of Ocho Rios triangulates with historic Discovery Bay to the west, Oracabessa Bay to the east and Bob Marley's mausoleum at Nine Mile in the Dry Harbour Mountains to the south. The parish capital of St. Ann's Bay is midway (roughly 10 km) between Runaway Bay to the west and Ocho Rios to the east.

Ocho Rios is 108 km east of Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, about a 90-minute drive on the new coastal expressway called Highway 2000. Ian Fleming International Airport, just east of Ocho Rios, is used for private jets and island shuttles, named after the creator of James Bond. Each year from the early 1950s until his death in 1964, Fleming would head to his exotic Goldeneye estate in nearby Oracabessa to compose a new adventure for Agent 007.

Culture

St. Ann's rich diversity and proud independence resonates in Jamaica's national motto: Out of Many, One People.

Visitors to the region are treated to a historical cocktail of plantation society, cheeky pirates, British conventions and "soul rebels" like Bob Marley and his Rasta disciples.

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Culture cont'd

Jamaica is an English-speaking Commonwealth country, with the British custom of driving on the left-hand side of the road. Yet its distinct music, language and piquant cuisine is more akin to New Orleans than it is to other Caribbean islands. The pulse of upbeat reggae, lilting Jamaican Patois and smoke from pimento-fired jerk barbecues fills the air in St. Ann Parish.

Island traditions were born in St. Ann when Christopher Columbus first tried to land here on May 5, 1494, meeting resistance from the Taino (Arawak) Indians. But the natives soon fell to the conquistadors who established some of the first Spanish settlements and cathedrals in the Americas. By the 17th century, sugar plantations flourished on the island under British rule.

In 1655, the Spanish were evicted at Ocho Rios by British forces. To help get rid of them for good, the Crown gave rogue buccaneers free reign as official privateers. Chief among them was the notorious Henry Morgan, who later became Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica (and the trademark of a popular brand of rum).

Over the next 175 years, indentured African and Asian servants vastly outnumbered the governing class. Uprisings culminated in 1831 with the Christmas Rebellion. Within seven years, slavery was abolished, plantation estates were deserted, “free villages” flourished and religion grew.

Today, Jamaica is a church country. Upwards of 90 per cent of the population is Christian, representing all denominations. Many Rastas (or Rastafari), a spiritual fraternity adhering to the common good of "one love," also attend church.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the parish capital of St. Ann's Bay is a spectacular Catholic church with 16th-century Spanish origins. En route to the cut-stone cathedral covered in vines, you'll pass a towering monument to Columbus. The statue typifies Jamaica's grudging acceptance of its origins by way of Spanish and British occupation.

Visitors are invited to attend island-wide Sunday church services and most businesses are closed on this traditional family day. It starts with mass, followed by an early dinner and community parties, often at the beach.

Drax Hall Point is a beautiful location at sunset overlooking the beach at St. Ann's Bay. Here, kids fly homemade kites, while others kick around in spirited soccer games.

Transportation

Taxis in Jamaica are either metered or flat rate. Rates are charged by the car, not by the number of passengers. Check with your driver prior to the start of your trip for rates and details. To arrange taxi services, most hotels and resorts have assigned Jamaican Tourist Board (JTB) or Jamaican Union of Travellers Association (JUTA) drivers who carry photo ID and display a JTB or JUTA sticker on their front windshield. Tipping your driver is recommended—about 10 to 15 per cent is customary. Travellers should be aware that trips taken between midnight and 5 a.m. run on a standard tipping rate of 25 per cent on top of the metered fee.

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Transportation cont'd

Round trip transfers between the airport and your hotel can be purchased in advance by contacting WestJet Vacations at least three days prior to your departure. Motorcycles, mopeds, scooters and bicycles can also be rented for the day or for the week from most resort locations.

Car rentals are available in Jamaica, but not recommended. Driving here is on the left hand side of the road and you must be at least 23 years old (with a valid credit card) to rent.

Check with your Jamaica Tours Limited representative or your hotel concierge for further information on transportation options.

Currency

The U.S. dollar and credit cards are widely accepted at hotels, restaurants, shops and at almost all other attractions in major cities where tourists visit. If you're planning to leave the tourist areas and visit local shops on the outskirts of town or in the rural areas, you'll need Jamaican dollars. Most Jamaican ATMs accept international bank cards and dispense funds in Jamaican dollars. Exchange rates can vary daily so it's best to shop around for the best rate before converting your cash.

Travel requirements

Arrival

When traveling to Ocho Rios or nearby Runaway Bay, you will fly into Jamaica's Montego Bay Sangster International Airport.

During your flight, you'll receive a double-sided Jamaican Immigration/Customs form. Only one customs form needs to be filled out per family. Please note that this section must be complete in order for it to be stamped by immigration officials upon arrival.

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Travel requirements cont'd

After a brief stop at baggage claim, you'll bring the stamped portion of the form to a customs officer. When you depart, you will need to present this form to outgoing immigration. Do not lose this portion of the form since the screening process at departing immigration will be much lengthier if you do. In addition, make sure you sign this form before returning it.

Guests should be aware that a transfer or return flight ticket and proof of sufficient travel funds may be required upon entry into Jamaica. So keep your return WestJet ticket accessible in your carry-on when you arrive.

If you have purchased transfers to and from your hotel with WestJet Vacations (the trip to Ocho Rios is around 1.5 hours), look for a Jamaican Tours Limited representative holding a WestJet Vacations sign after exiting the customs area. Simply identify yourself as a WestJet Vacations guest and you'll be on your way.

Departure

Smiling WestJetters will be ready to assist you at the check-in counters in the departure area of the Montego Bay Sangster International Airport. An airport tax of J$1,000 is charged upon departure but when you fly WestJet, this tax is included in your ticket price.

If you have some time before your flight, the Montego Bay airport has all the shopping conveniences of an international airport, including duty free shopping. There are also many places to grab a bite to eat, as well as business, play and lounge areas to pass the time before your departure.

Vaccination

Although yellow fever is not a disease risk in Jamaica, the Jamaican government requires travelers arriving from countries where yellow fever is present to show proof of vaccination. It is also always recommended that you stay up-to-date on standard vaccines. Check with your local clinic for more information.

Voltage

Jamaica uses the North American standard plug; however some properties have only two-pronged receptacles in the room rather than three-pronged receptacles.

Travel requirements

After a brief stop at baggage claim, you'll bring the stamped portion of the form to a customs officer.

Learn more

Currency

The U.S. dollar and credit cards are widely accepted at hotels, restaurants, shops and at almost all other attractions in major cities where tourists visit.

Learn more

Transportation

Taxis in Jamaica are either metered or flat rate. Rates are charged by the car, not by the number of passengers.

Learn more